Sprint releases enterprise IM

Sprint Corp. today entered the enterprise instant messaging (IM) market with a hosted, behind-the-firewall service that works on various devices and across carrier networks.

The carrier also announced that it’s providing wireless access to Notes from IBM subsidiary Lotus Software Group in Cambridge, Mass., and Exchange from Microsoft Corp.

The service, called PCS Business Connection Enterprise Edition, works without middleware and can be managed centrally by a corporate IT staff.

Based on JAVA 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), the IM service works with Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and Short Messaging Service devices from Palm Inc., Handspring Inc., Research in Motion Inc.’s Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows CE. It can also be used from a wireless device to a desktop, and between desktops. It’s Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-compliant and comes with client software.

Much of the security is because the product works exclusively behind the firewall. Bruce Friedman, director for mobile and e-business consulting at Sprint’s E-solutions group, said interoperability between corporations isn’t secure and won’t be viable until a standard protocol, such as Session Initiation Protocol for IM or Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), is promoted by the Internet Engineering Task Force, or if a protocol becomes a de facto market standard.

“SIMPLE would help [IM] become interoperable and secure across networks,” Friedman said.

Today, the internal tool is meant primarily for remote or traveling employees, such as a mobile sales force. The application can link directly into, for example, a sales force automation tool, so that customer information can be automatically sent to a sales representative via IM when he has a calendar appointment with that client.

The IM service is available for a free, 60-day trial on up to 20 seats. Friedman said the company isn’t making its pricing public, partly because there is some customization for each installation.